The Early Presentation of Dementia in People with Down Syndrome: a Systematic Review of Longitudinal Studies.
Adults with Down syndrome (DS) are at a very high risk of developing early onset Alzheimer's disease (AD) due to trisomy of chromosome 21. AD is preceded by a prolonged prodromal "pre-clinical" phase presenting with clinical features that do not fulfil the diagnostic criteria for AD. It is important to clinically characterise this prodromal stage to help early detection of the disease as neuropathology of AD is almost universal by the fifth decade in DS. There is a lack of knowledge of the trajectory of decline associated with the onset of dementia in this population and early signs may be overlooked or misdiagnosed, negatively affecting the quality of life of those affected and the use of early pharmacological or psychosocial interventions. The objective of this systematic review is to evaluate the published literature on longitudinal data in order to identify the cognitive and behavioural changes occurring during the prodromal and early stages of AD in this population. Fifteen peer-reviewed articles met the inclusion criteria, including a total number of 831 participants, with the duration between baseline and follow up varying from 1 year to 47 years. Results suggest that, compared to the general population for which short-term (episodic) memory loss is the most common indicator associated with the onset of AD, in people with DS, executive dysfunction and Behavioural and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia (BPSD) are commonly observed during pre-clinical and early stages and may precede memory loss. The review highlights the importance of using a broad spectrum of assessments in the context of heterogeneity of symptoms. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed, as well as the need for further research.
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